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Noah Medrano is a Mandel Fellow

When he was young, Noah Medrano’s curiosity led him to take apart his laptop for fun and analyze its components. “I began to teach myself what programming is, and I was amazed by its applications and impact on our modern world,” he said.

Medrano’s unwavering passion for technology propelled him to pursue a computer science degree at Case Western Reserve University. However, his intellectual curiosity and desire for a holistic education led him to double-major in philosophy. Now, as a Mandel Undergraduate Fellow, he is weaving together the threads of computer science and philosophy in a unique tapestry of interdisciplinary learning.

The Mandel Undergraduate Fellowship program bridges the gap between STEM and humanities, fostering a rich environment for interdisciplinary exploration. As a fellow, Medrano was awarded $4500 in funding for Summer 2024, with an additional $9000 for each of the following three years. This generous support has paved the way for his research, education abroad, and community engagement.

When considering where to invest his 2024 funding, Medrano contacted Assistant Professor Alexis E. Block. Block’s collaborative lab fosters a unique human-robot interaction, engineering, and social psychology blend. “I’m already having a great time in the lab with Dr. Block, which is possible because of the fellowship,” he said. “I was so drawn to her work in robotics and how it was incorporated into the world of social psychology through hugs and social touch.”

“​​The field of robotics is extremely interesting and has so many applications,” added Medrano. “I think it pairs well with philosophy in exploring the effects of implementing robotics into daily life and how humans interact with these new systems.”

Medrano’s research in Block’s SaPHaRI Lab currently focuses on her Affect-Sensing Wearable, specifically exploring its potential applications for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Block says, “I have really enjoyed the creativity and ingenuity Noah brings to this project. It’s been a pleasure working with him thus far, and I look forward to continuing our work with the support of the Mandel Fellowship.” He will use an interdisciplinary approach to study the wearable’s impact on diverse communities, considering both STEM and humanities perspectives. “I am keen to contribute to this discourse and leverage this fellowship as an opportunity to expand my understanding and contribute meaningfully to this critical dialogue,” he said.

Though this is Medrano’s first summer at the Human Fusions Institute, it is his second at CWRU. He got a head start on his college career in the Summer of 2023 by enrolling in CWRU’s Emerging Scholars program, where he took courses and learned about strategies for college success. “[The program] was a very impactful experience and truly motivated me,” he said. While he is involved in multiple research activities and clubs at CWRU and is considering studying abroad or participating in a co-op, he emphasized the importance of self-care. “Although I’ve worked hard to get where I am, I took breaks and rested along the way.”

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